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Practice in all keys or master one key at a time?


I play the piano and I'm currently practicing Seven Worlds in Exercise 2. You say to begin the exercise by starting on any random note and just imagining this to be one of the notes on our tonal map (1 to 7). Then we build whichever harmonic environment we want to study and we practice improvising with these notes.

My question then is what about the starting piano note for the next time. Should I always go back to the same note until I really learn this section of the keyboard? Or is it better to start the exercise each time on a different starting note on the piano?


David's response:

Hi Mike,

Thanks for your question. I teach my students to always begin EVERY musical exercise with a moment that I describe as "throwing yourself into the ocean". This means choosing any random note on your instrument and fearlessly starting on this note, without even worrying about where the rest of the exercise might take you.

The reason we want to start every exercise in this way is because this is one of the best ways to practice one of the most essential skills of the improviser, which is the ability to think through new musical situations and solve them in the moment using what you understand about harmony.

practicing Seven Worlds on the pianoDon't think of this brief moment of disorientation as a "barrier" to the exercise. This moment of disorientation IS the exercise! We're not just trying to build a long list of memorized scales. What we're developing is the ability to visualize any tonal concept anywhere we want. So in your practicing, it's much more valuable to be continually throwing yourself into new situations where you have to think through each interval as you go, rather than trying to memorize the result from the last time you studied the same material.

So I would always encourage you to start in a new place each time you sit down at the piano. This will require you to be slow and thoughtful about your practicing in the beginning, but that's a benefit in itself. So just take your time, relax and enjoy exploring the piano.

Happy practicing!